|Novel appearances||The Clan of the Cave Bear|
The Valley of Horses
The Mammoth Hunters
The Plains of Passage
The Shelters of Stone
The Land of Painted Caves
|Film appearances||The Clan of the Cave Bear (film)|
The Land of Painted Caves Trailer
"You can make me go away, you can take my son from me, but you can't make me die!"
- -Ayla, The Clan of the Cave Bear.
Ayla is the main character, and the primary "Earth's Child," in Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series. Introduced in The Clan of the Cave Bear, she is also the main character in all books. During the series she evolves from a kinless outcast to a very important religious leader that changes the course of human history.
Appearance and personalityEdit
Ayla is a nearly 6-foot-tall female of the Others. She is agile and fairly muscular for a female with a tanned skin.
Ayla face is described in detail in the fourth book:
"Her long, thick, dark blond hair, gleaming with highlights where the sun had lightened it, was held back out of her way with a thong. But it had a natural wave and loose strands that had escaped the leather binding curled around her tanned face."
"Her large eyes were grey-blue outlined with lashes a shade or two darker than her hair; her eyebrows were somewhat lighter, between the two in colour. Her face was heart-shaped, rather wide with high cheekbones, a well-defined jaw, and a narrow chin."
Some of Ayla's traits come from living with the Clan. Her exceptional strength comes from trying to keep up with the massive Neanderthals. Ayla has a strangely accented voice. Her speech is also a remnant of their way of speaking, but not as obvious as strength. Almost every male character of her species in the series finds Ayla exceptionally beautiful, but Ayla initially describes herself as "big and ugly." Another word frequently used to describe her is "exotic," indicating that she seems a bit foreign to everyone who meets her, and that her own people live somewhere else. She is said to be from the Crimean area.
Ayla is shown throughout the novel to be a courageous, strong-willed woman. She has a strong will to survive and also longs for love and acceptance. Ayla has a habit of challenging authority figures and rules, though she is generally polite and respecful towards people. Ayla has difficulties with her self-esteem, viewing herself as being physically ugly and also believing she not a "good Clan woman". She also struggles to express her inner thoughts and feelings to people, a flaw which persists right to the end of the series. It takes Ayla a long time to finally break free of her Clan training and value herself. Ayla tends to be quite modest about her more exceptional skills and talents, often expressing embarrassment when people praise her. She is shown to be quite intelligent, using both logic and 'outside-the-box' thinking to solve problems. Ayla is very honest and straight-foward, due in part to her being raised in the Clan. Whilst this is an admirable trait, it also leads to her inadvertently offending people, sometimes with disastrous results.
Ayla likes helping people and becomes angry and righteous if she encounters prejudice or injustice in any form. Her compassion extends to most living creatures, with the exception of those who harm others or people she cares about, and hyenas, which she despises and uses as a metaphor for anything she considers to be wicked or unjust.
Ayla’s prototype is a nearly 6-foot-tall female skeleton found at Cro-Magnon in France.
Very little is known of Ayla's family, people and origin. One can assume with the facts given, that her and her parents were on a hunting expedition, or travel of some kind as they were alone. She and her people resided somewhere on the Crimean peninsula before the events that led to Ayla being orphaned. Though it is never explicitly stated in the novel, we can deduce that Ayla's family perished in the Earthquake. Frightened and alone, a five year old Ayla wandered the steppes unable to fend for herself. Inadvertantly making her way into Cave Lion territory, she was chased by a male lion into a small gap in the mountain side. She escaped with 4 parallel claw marks on her left leg and her life. Terrified to leave her small sanctuary, thirst finally drove her out. Common Sense saved her by telling herself that she needed to stay near water. Weakened by hunger and a festering wound, after miles of walking Ayla fell into unconciousness by a stream.
Life with Brun's clanEdit
Brun's Clan, left homeless by the same earthquake that had orphaned Ayla, also wandered the peninsula in search of a new cave. Iza, the medicine woman of the clan, noticed Ayla as the clan passed by the stream. Taking pity on a child of the Others she begged Brun to allow her to keep the girl and treat her. Brun was hesitant but finally acquiesced thinking she would not survive anyway. However, she recovers and is eventually accepted into the Clan as Iza's daughter and given the totem of the Cave Lion.
As a child among the Clan, she is described as lucky, favored by the spirits. Iza surmises that Ayla was born to a medicine woman of the Others though Ayla has very little memory of her birth mother and knows nothing of the tribe of the Others to whom she was born. Although Ayla lacks the Clan's ability to access ancestral memories, Iza succeeds in training her as a medicine healer. In her childhood and young adulthood she invents several things previously unknown, as well as innovations to existing tools and their uses.
When Ayla acts as the medicine woman at the Clan Gathering and prepares the sacred herb for the Mog-urs' ceremony, she ingests some of the juice from the root and is strongly affected by its psychotropic properties. Creb makes telepathic contact with her, and she follows him through his psychic exploration of the Clan "memories". She then follows the path of the Others' divergence from the Clan, and among other things sees a glimpse of the future: "Boxlike structures...long ribbons of stone...strange animals crawling at great speeds...huge birds that flew without flapping their wings." Apparently Auel intends to describe Ayla seeing a glimpse of the modern era, and even beyond to the next stage of human evolution. Creb has seen all these things with her, and telepathically orders her out of the cave when she returns to her own mind, knowing in his heart that only the Others will continue to evolve and that the Clan will die out.
Valley of HorsesEdit
Alone in a secluded valley where she has fled after being expelled from the Clan, Ayla has a psychic link with a Cro-Magnon man, Jondalar (who will become her husband) long before she meets him. She experiences his emotions in her dreams, and may have picked up her knowledge of how to draw a spark from flint and iron pyrite from her psychic connection with him. After she rescues the badly-injured Jondalar from a cave lion and tends his wounds, and he comes to live with her and begins teaching her his language, she dreams of her own mother speaking to her and of an earthquake (which betoken tragedy and upheaval to Ayla.) After this dream, Ayla suddenly speaks Jondalar's language fluently with only a trace of a Clan accent, though the day before she had spoken only in broken and barely-coherent sentences. This transformation is implied to have been the result of Ayla finally facing the trauma of having lost her family, which in the early pages of Clan of the Cave Bear is described as repressing memories. It is also a testimony to her extraordinarily-trained memory, which was cataloging his speech without her conscious effort.
Living with the Mammoth HuntersEdit
Ayla continues to have psychic and prophetic experiences linked to the rituals used by the Mamutoi people. She dreams that she has two sons, Durc and an unknown son who appears to have no Clan lineage at all; they are on the verge of open conflict, and Ayla struggles to reach them in time to prevent the destruction of one son by the other. It is suggested that the meaning of the dream has less to do with her 'children' than the evolution of the Others and decline of the Clan. Her new friend Ranec comes to believe that she is an incarnation of what he calls the "Spirit Woman," the perfect spirit model of a woman in whose image all are made, and that she may even be the Earth Mother incarnate. Shaman Mamut indicates to Jondalar, Ranec, and Vincavec, another Mamutoi shaman who wants to marry Ayla, that Ayla has some great purpose. Vincavec attempts to hypnotize Ayla, but she is able to resist him, as well as the spiritual influences of others. Though Ayla contends that her ability to tame and win the loyalty of animals is only a matter of time, patience and proper handling, her gift for making friends of numerous animals is considered a sign of her supernatural gifts.
Journey to the WestEdit
On the journey back to the Zelandonii territory, Jondalar's home, many of the tribes Ayla encounters mistake Ayla's extreme creative intelligence and even her common-sense reasoning for supernatural powers. Jondalar and Ayla both insist that she has no such gifts, but they do not stay in one place long enough to convince anyone otherwise. Ayla continues to have prophetic dreams.
Living among the ZelandoniiEdit
Upon arriving at the Ninth Cave, Jondalar's dwelling, Ayla realizes that this cave is identical to one she's been seeing in her dreams. Her dreams and waking psychic visions become more frequent and more powerful, and the female shaman Zelandoni can sense them. However, Ayla rejects Zelandoni's offers to train her as a priestess, saying she merely wishes to live a normal life. Zelandoni finally convinces Ayla to join the spiritual devotees, known as Those Who Serve the Mother.
In The Land of Painted Caves Ayla gets her education to become one of Those-Who-Serve-the-Mother. She visits many of the sacret painted caves. And she struggles to balance her education with her family life which leads her husband to "share pleasures" with his ex-girlfriend as a way to relieve himself since his wife is often busy or too tired to do anything. This causes a rift between them that is only lifted when Jondalar manages to bring her back from a death-like coma induced by a root, due to a prayer to the Mother by Jondalar.
Her life with the Clan is quite similar to the novel.
In popular cultureEdit
- Ayla is a common Turkish feminine name that is usually synonymous with "moonlight."
- One of her skills, the ability to sling two stones at once, is not actually possible.